Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669

Tobias Healing His Father's Blindness

pen drawing (21 × 8 cm) — c. 1642 Museum Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn biography

This work is linked to Tobit 11:11

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Tags: Tobit

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According to the story in the Bible, Tobias healed his father Tobit's blindness by putting a fish's gall over his eyes. Rembrandt, however, here shows a real cataract operation, which he may have copied from the Amsterdam surgeon Job van Meekren. In 1635, Van Meekren, a pupil of the famous Nicolaas Tulp, was the first in the world to perform such an operation.

Tobias performs the task with extreme concentration. Tobit trusts him but still finds it exciting, as can be seen in how he clutches to the armrests. His wife Anna watches. To be able to see it well, she wears glasses, with which she also emphasizes the subject of sight. On the far right is Tobias's wife, Sarah.

Drawn with a lighter touch, the angel Raphael watches closely. His guidance ensures that the operation is a success: the old man retrieves his sight.

The drawing is a good example of how Rembrandt enriched biblical stories with everyday events and objects - here the chair and the glasses.

Technique: pen and brown ink, touched with white gouache.

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